It was spectacularly beautiful. We have so much fun together when we can both unwind and relax, and we held hands and laughed most of the day, picking on each other and joking around.
On a whim, we took a detour to the house where Gary lived when I met him. The house was built before the 1920’s, leans on its foundation like a woozy drunk, has closets tiny as matchbooks, and needs extensive repair work…but the kids adored it. We all did.
I got to know Gary and the kids in that house. We became a family in that house.
Gary and I were excited to see the house is empty, and we parked in the driveway like we still lived there and wandered onto the porch. Peeping through the window, I smiled, picturing the now-empty living room dotted with toys, the kids’ voices filling the house, their laughter and shrieks of excitement during games of hide-and-seek as their daddy leaped out of his hiding spot and chased them. The house lent itself well to chasing, since with all the doors left open, you could race in a full circle through the house, with plenty of hiding spots along the route.
Gary and I trailed into the backyard, laughing at the huge, thick bush near the backdoor where wolves and bears dwelt, waiting to be roused forth by our band of fearless little ones toting toy bows and arrows, and Gary said, “This was the perfect yard.” Large, open, with just enough bushes and trees to offer shade and hiding places. Just strolling through the yard, I could almost hear the kids and see them ducking behind trees, racing around the house, freezing in the arms of trees too small to hide them but insisting to themselves like cats in long grass that no one can see them!
I have to admit, I almost teared up, standing there at our old house, where so much happened, so much came together. Our lives together started there. The stories unfolding now began there, in the crooked yellow house that became home to 3 hurting kids (Dove wasn’t permitted to join us back then), a dad fighting for them, and a woman who was luckily not easily scared away.
Something we didn’t expect was the dry-erase calendar still hanging on a door in the back of the house, with my birthday still noted with a little drawing of a birthday cake (my handiwork), a sketch of a cat (ummm, mine again), and Gary’s handwriting across the top. It was startling somehow, like discovering an artifact, a ghost.
Gary regarded the calendar a moment, then asked, “Should we try to take it down?”
I shook my head and couldn’t help but smile. “Nah.” I liked the idea of leaving our thumbprint behind, a reminder, even if it only mattered to us.
The day tugged the protective gear from my heart and let me freely embrace Gary, the kids, all our special moments. We pulled out memories from our nearly 3 years together, tossed them back and forth, laughed, walked around together, shopped for the kids, and spent the day doing what we need to do more often: celebrating us.
It was also a numbing realization how long the kids have been under fire, suffering for the sin of merely wanting to love and be loved. The more things change…
They deserve better.
Going back to work yesterday morning was torture. Gary and I wrapped up in each other’s arms as long as possible, crossed the line from “We’re going to need to hurry” to “We’re going to be crazy late now”, and still didn’t get out of bed. I didn’t want the weekend to end.
I’m glad we went back to that house. I’m glad it was empty, and I’m glad we had the opportunity to take another look around, trip over memories and feel the kids with us as we traced our steps in the yard. That house will always be our favorite, no matter where we live from now on, because it’s where we all came together into the loud, crazy, laughing, sometimes crying, always loving gang that we are now.